Military saint

Four Military Saints by Michael Damaskinos (16th century, Benaki Museum), showing St George and St Theodore Teron on the left, and St Demetrios and St Theodore Stratelates on the right, all on horseback, with angels holding wreaths over their heads, beneath Christ Pantokrator.
Triptych of the Bogomater flanked by Saints George and Demetrius as horsemen (dated 1754)

The military saints, warrior saints and soldier saints are patron saints, martyrs and other saints associated with the military. They were originally composed of the Early Christians who were soldiers in the Roman Army during the persecution of Christians, especially the Diocletian persecution of AD 303–313.

Most of the Early Christian military saints were soldiers of the Roman Empire who had become Christian and, after refusing to participate in Imperial cult rituals of loyalty to the Roman Emperor, were subjected to corporal punishment including torture and martyrdom.

Veneration of these saints, most notably of Saint George, was reinforced in the Latin Church during the time of the Crusades. The title of "champion of Christ" (athleta Christi) was originally used for these saints, but in the late medieval period also conferred on contemporary rulers by the Pope.[citation needed]

Since the Middle Ages, more saints have been added for various military-related patronages.

Hagiography [ edit ]

In Late Antiquity other Christian writers of hagiography, like Sulpicius Severus in his account of the heroic, military life of Martin of Tours, created a literary model that reflected the new spiritual, political, and social ideals of a post-Roman society. In a study of Anglo-Saxon soldier saints (Damon 2003), J.E. Damon has demonstrated the persistence of Sulpicius's literary model in the transformation of the pious, peaceful saints and willing martyrs of late antique hagiography to the Christian heroes of the early Middle Ages, who appealed to the newly converted societies led by professional warriors and who exemplified accommodation with and eventually active participation in holy wars that were considered just.[1]

Iconography [ edit ]

The military saints are characteristically depicted as soldiers in traditional Byzantine iconography from about the 10th century (Macedonian dynasty) and especially in Slavic Christianity.[2] While early icons show the saints in "classicizing" attire, icons from the 11th and especially the 12th centuries, painted in the new style of τύπων μιμήματα (imitating nature), are an important source for our knowledge of medieval Byzantine military equipment.[3]

The angelic prototype of the Christian soldier-saint is the Archangel Michael, whose earliest known cultus began in the 5th century with a shrine at Monte Gargano. The iconography of soldier-saints Theodore and George as cavalrymen develops in the early medieval period. The earliest image of St Theodore as a horseman (named in Latin) is from Vinica, North Macedonia and, if genuine, dates to the 6th or 7th century. Here, Theodore is not slaying a dragon, but holding a draco standard. Three equestrian saints, Demetrius, Theodore and George, are depicted in the "Zoodochos Pigi" chapel in central Macedonia in Greece, in the prefecture of Kilkis, near the modern village of Kolchida, dated to the 9th or 10th century.[4] The "dragon-slaying" motif develops in the 10th century, especially iconography seen in the Cappadocian cave churches of Göreme, where frescoes of the 10th century show military saints on horseback confronting serpents with one, two or three heads.[5] In later medieval Byzantine iconography, the pair of horsemen is no longer identified as Theodore and George, but as George and Demetrius.

List of military saints [ edit ]

Catholic [ edit ]

(Although some on the list remains unclassified as of 2019)

Image Name Martyrdom Location Church Patronage
Acacius c. 303 Byzantium
Adrian of Nicomedia 4 March 306 Guards, soldiers
Andrew the General c. 300 Cilicia
Demetrius of Thessaloniki, 12th century Greek mosaic from Kiev Demetrius of Thessaloniki 304 Sirmium
Barbara Catholic, Russian Orthodox Artillerymen, military engineers,[6] missileers including those of the Strategic Rocket Forces, the Missile and Artillery Forces, and the Air Defense Forces, Space Forces.
Cecilia Bandsmen
Saint Cornelius and the Angel Cornelius the Centurion
Emeterius and Chelidonius c. 300 Calagurris in Hispania Tarraconensis
Saint Eustace (17th-century icon) Eustace 118
Expeditus c. 303 Melitene, Cappadocia
Florian c. 303 Lauriacum in Noricum
Hans Süß von Kulmbach (zugeschr.) - Heiliger Georg.jpg George c. 303 Nicomedia in Bithynia Patronages
Saint Gereon, by a 15th-century German artist Gereon c. 304
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - St Jacobus in Budapest.jpg James the Great AD 44 Catholic Knights and Cavalry
Albert Lynch - Jeanne d'Arc.jpg Joan of Arc 30 May 1431 France Catholic Soldiers
Joshua Nouailher Louvre MR2526.jpg Joshua
Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Soldiers
, Saint Maurice by Matthias Grünewald Maurice and

the Theban Legion
287 Agaunum in Alpes Poeninae et Graiae
Saint Martin of Tours from the Grandes Heures of Anne of Brittany. Martin of Tours [7] Soldiers (infantrymen)
Maximilian 295 Tebessa in Africa Proconsularis
Marcellus of Tangier 298 Tingis in Mauretania Tingitana
Saint Menas (18th century) Menas c. 309 Cotyaeum in Phrygia
Mercurius 250 Caesarea in Cappadocia
Anónimo - San Miguel Arcángel, 1708.jpg Michael the Archangel Catholic Military; paratroopers; policemen.[8]
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Sailors[9]
Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Airmen[10]
Sebastian Soldiers, infantrymen, archers, municipal police
Sergius and Bacchus c. 305 Resafa and Barbalissus in Syria Euphratensis
Theodore of Amasea 306 Amasea in Helenopontus
Typasius the Veteran 304 Tigava in Mauretania Caesariensis
Vardan 387 Armenia
Varus c. 307 Egypt
Victor the Moor c. 303 Milan in Italy
Icon of Saint Nicetas from Yaroslavl (16th century) Nicetas the Goth 372 Dacia
Forty Martyrs of Sebaste 320 Sebaste

Eastern Orthodox Church [ edit ]

In the Romanian Orthodox Church:

Michael the Archangel: protector of the Romanian Army, and, as the patron saint of Michael the Brave and as the symbol of the Romanian victory in the Great War, the protector of the unity of all Romanians.

Saint George: patron of the Romanian Land Forces

Saint Elijah: patron of the Romanian Air Forces

Virgin Mary: patron of the Romanian Naval Forces

The Russian Orthodox Church:

See also [ edit ]

References [ edit ]

  1. ^ Damon, John Edward. Soldier Saints and Holy Warriors: Warfare and Sanctity in the Literature of Early England. (Burlington (VT): Ashgate Publishing Company), 2003, ISBN 0-7546-0473-X
  2. ^ "The 'warrior saints' or 'military saints' can be distinguished from the huge host of martyrs by the pictorial convention of cladding them in military attire." (Grotowski 2010:2)
  3. ^ (Grotowski 2010:400)
  4. ^ Melina Paissidou, "Warrior Saints as Protectors of the Byzantine Army in the Palaiologan Period: the Case of the Rock-cut Hermitage in Kolchida (Kilkis Prefecture)", in: Ivanka Gergova Emmanuel Moutafov (eds.), ГЕРОИ • КУЛТОВЕ • СВЕТЦИ / Heroes Cults Saints Sofija (2015), 181-198.
  5. ^ Paul Stephenson, The Serpent Column: A Cultural Biography, Oxford University Press (2016), 179–182.
  6. ^ "Patron Saints: M - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online". Retrieved 2015-12-30.
  7. ^ Martin is not a martyr, and not a classical military saint. He came to be venerated as "military saint" in 19th to 20th-century French nationalism due to his successful promotion as such during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1. Brennan, Brian, The Revival of the Cult of Martin of Tours in the Third Republic (1997).
  8. ^ "St. Michael, the Archangel - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online". Retrieved 2012-12-27.
  9. ^ "Portal Cultura de Defensa". Ministerio de Defensa.
  10. ^ Ministerio de Defensa, Portal Cultura de Defensa. "Santos Patrones de las FAS y la Guardía Civil".
  • Monica White, Military Saints in Byzantium and Rus, 900–1200 (2013).
  • Christopher Walter, The Warrior Saints in Byzantine Art and Tradition (2003).
  • Piotr Grotowski, Arms and Armour of the Warrior Saints: Tradition and Innovation in Byzantine Iconography (843–1261), Volume 87 of The Medieval Mediterranean (2010).

External links [ edit ]

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